As our time at sea approaches a week, I notice a distinct change in the dynamic of personal relationships: they are marked by confidence. Confidence in the teenagers’ place within the team and confidence in their own ability.
This is in no small measure the result of their achievements, as trainees are paced through a rigorous programme of physical and mental challenges from the first day on board:
- being part of a 24-hour watch system that demands taking responsibility for between 6 and 10 hours of work a day at sea, on anchor or in harbour
- seamanship and safety briefings and drills
- helming the ship, steering to command as well as to compass or wind angle
- safely climbing onto the first platform on the main mast and back down
- keeping lookout
- bracing the yards on the main mast
- learning to release gaskets and stow square sails on the yards
- setting fore-and-aft and square sails and coiling ropes
- mooring the ship
- helping our cook in the galley
- cleaning the ship
All this work is organised in three watches that each have an experienced watch leader, who looks after the team and supports personal and skills development of each member. Very quickly, the team grows together and support each other in times of tiredness, seasickness and uncertainty. Trainees find their place, find friendship among people from more than 10 nations and experience success with their new skills set – and all of these build confidence that lasts a lifetime.
As Abi put it: “…I think that the voyage helped massively when it comes to my socialising ability. Before the voyage I would be nervous talking to people who I didn’t know. I’ve noticed that since I’ve been back, I’m able to talk to people with more ease.“
Undja quoted one of her most memorable moments as overcoming her fear of heights: “…I enjoyed when we had to climb up (the mast) to set sails because I got out of my comfort zone and I also faced my fear of heights.”
Lucy realised and lived up to her responsibility on the second night on board: “…Being on the helm for the first time was extremely nerve wracking and stressful – you are guiding an entire tall ship full of people. I mean, it’s not a hard job, but … having the responsibility to do that is amazing. That night I learned how to sail by using a compass and it was so incredible.“
Featured Image: Hayley Rossington from Plymouth helming the Pelican of London in August 2022. (c) C Braungardt.